Aeroverse: Mars - Virtual Reality App

An immersive Learning Experience. On Mars. 

Timeline

Sep '23 - Dec '234 months

Contributions

VR DesignLead UX DesignerUsability testingVR Research

Team

Project managerDevelopersAudio engineer

Tools

Figma
Meta Quest 2Unity
ShippedVR DesignAeroAstroEducation

Mars is ~140 Million miles away. This is an attempt to "decrease" that distance.  

🥽 Imagine... you're wearing a VR headset, press play on the video below

Aersoverse Mars - VR Experience Showreel
Brief intro

Background

I had the opportunity to cross-register at MIT during my graduate studies. I enrolled in course 2.177 - "Designing Virtual Worlds" at. In this class, we learned the fundamentals of designing building for Virtual Reality, heard from incredible guest speakers who are leading in the VR space.

My group collaborated with MIT AeroAstro on their VR in extended reality research. We design and develop the end-to-end experience of a Mars learning module. Our product has been  implemented a undergraduate Aero-astro course at MIT.

How might we enable immersive learning for undergraduate AeroAstro Students learning about Mars Exploration?

Early stages

Why VR in this case? 

VR was a viable medium for the Aeroverse project for three main reasons:

1. Explore environments that are not easily accessible (like Mars) in a life-like simulation 

2. Understand true scale and detail of the Curiosity Rover from a first-person point of view 

 3. Enable hands-on, virtually situated learning

Centering the End User

Understanding VR best practices

As I was designing in VR for the first time, my process involved a lot of research around VR best practices.

Low Fidelity Wireframes for Reference

Understanding the vision of the experience was a key part of making sure we were meeting product goals. Credit to our project manager for specifying the requirements and laying out screen content.

Rapid Paper Prototyping

3D aper prototyping exercise done in 2.177 class. Helped us identify important 3D components in the experience. 

Testing and Iteration was Key

Given the newness of designing in VR, our team heavily relied on usability testing and iteration according to feedback. As a team we conducted around 14 rounds of testing/feedback sessions, of which I facilitated 4. Here is an example of some feedback from a testing session:

Maximizing the 5 sense senses Experience

From haptic controller feedback to spatial audio, we aimed to maximize the user's experience. Some specific features include:

Read-aloud audio

Haptic feedback

Visual scenes

Spatial audio

Interactive action

Spatial Movement

High-fidelity prototyping

I used Figma to create High-fidelity prototypes to optimize the user experience and to ease the development process.

Easing the User Experience 

Given the content heavy nature of the the experience, we wanted to reduce the likelihood for the user to have to use other platforms like Webster dictionary or Google search to further support their learning. as such we integrated a Glossary feature.

Impact

Demo Day!

By early December when the course was coming to an end, we had the opportunity to demo our app to VR professionals. 

Launching in AeroAstro Course @ MIT

Our application launched in January 2024 in an IAP course called Aeroverse: Aerospace Education in Extended Reality at MIT. Our project manager has shared positive feedback from the students using the application.

Current Status

The official Aeroverse: Mars Module product has been officially shipped. It launched in an intro to AeroAstro course @ MIT (Jan 2024)

Product Launch Details

To view the course description, see instructions below:

1. Open the course description link 
2. Scroll down to "For-Credit Activities"
3. Select IAP 2024 Listings
4. Expand number  16.S684  Special Subject in Aeronautics & Astronautics, U-Level (Aeroverse: Aerospace Engineering in Extended Reality (XR))

Main Takeaway 

This was a fast-paced project that involved learning how to design for a new medium from the ground up. While going from 2D to 3D design proved to be challenging, it was enjoyable!

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